Introduction: Development of an effective, safe and targeted drug delivery system to fight cancer and other diseases is a prime focus in the area of drug discovery. The emerging field of nanotechnology has revolutionised the way cancer therapy and diagnosis is achieved primarily due to the recent advances in material engineering and drug availability. Further, the recognition of the crucial role played by anti-apoptotic proteins such as survivin, has initiated the development of therapeutics that can target this protein as an attempt to develop alternative cancer therapies. However, a key challenge faced in drug development is the efficient delivery of survivin-targeted molecules to specific areas in the body. Areas covered: This review primarily focuses on the different strategies employing nanotechnology for targeting survivin expressed in human cancers. Different nanomaterials incorporating nucleic molecules or drugs targeted at survivin are discussed and the results obtained from studies are highlighted. Expert opinion: There are extensive studies reporting different treatment regimens for cancer, however, they still result in systemic toxicity, reduced bioavailability and ineffective delivery. Novel approaches involve the use of biocompatible nanomaterials together with gene or drug molecules to target proteins such as survivin, which is overexpressed in cancerous cells. These nanoformulations allow the benefits of protecting easily degradable molecules, allow controlled release, and enhance targeted delivery and effectiveness. Hence, nanotherapy utilizing survivin targeting can be considered to play a key role in the development of personalized nanomedicine for cancer.